Pittsburgh (43-57) at San Francisco (54-46)

Cloudy Currently: San Francisco, CA
Temp: 58° F
  • Game info: 3:45 pm EDT Wed Jul 29, 2009
  • TV: CSBA
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The San Francisco Giants are in position to grab sole possession of the NL wild-card lead, and a big part of their surprising success can be attributed to Matt Cain(notes).

Cain looks to become the majors’ first 13-game winner Wednesday when the Giants attempt to sweep a three-game series from the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Giants (54-46), winners of seven of nine at AT&T Park, are tied with Colorado for the wild-card lead after beating the Pirates 3-2 on Tuesday, one night after a 4-2 victory in the series opener. Those wins came after a 3-8 stretch relinquished the top spot in the wild-card race to the Rockies, who face the New York Mets on Wednesday.

Being a factor in the playoff chase is a major change for San Francisco, which has not had a winning record since 2004 and failed to reach the postseason since 2003.

Cain (12-2, 2.27 ERA) has been a big part of that turnaround, and his next victory would also match his career-high win total set in 2006, when he went 13-12 with a 4.15 ERA in his first full season in the majors. He followed that up by going 15-30 with a 3.71 ERA in the next two seasons.

The right-hander, who is 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 10 home starts, was outstanding again Friday, yielding one run and three hits in seven innings of a 3-1 win at Colorado for his third straight victory.

“We’ve got a lot of baseball left,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Cain’s chances of being a contender for the NL Cy Young Award. “But I can’t say enough about what he’s done this year. He’s really emerged as a terrific pitcher. He’s not trying to power his way through guys, has great poise out there. We’ll see. We’ll talk about that in September.”

Cain, who was named to his first All-Star game earlier this month, is 1-2 with a 4.65 ERA in five starts against Pittsburgh.

The Pirates are looking to snap a four-game slide during which they’ve been outscored 23-4 while hitting .205 with a .252 on-base percentage, but they won’t have shortstop Jack Wilson(notes) on the field to help them.

Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell(notes) were traded to Seattle on Wednesday for shortstop Ronny Cedeno(notes), Triple-A catcher Jeff Clement(notes) and three minor league pitchers.

Wilson, who began his major league career with Pittsburgh in 2001, was hitting .267 with four homers and 31 RBIs.

Garrett Jones(notes) has struggled against San Francisco, going 1 for 9 with an RBI in the two games. The right fielder entered the series hitting .345 with 10 homers and 15 RBIs in the previous 21 games following his recall from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 30.

The Pirates will turn to Zach Duke(notes) (9-9, 3.42), the team leader in wins. The left-hander, who had won just eight games combined the last two years, can match a career high in victories established in 2006.

Duke got closer to matching his career high in wins Friday, allowing three runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings of Friday’s 10-3 victory at Arizona that ended a four-start losing streak in which the Pirates gave him just seven runs of support.

“It was nice to know that you don’t have to feel like you have to be perfect,” Duke told the Pirates’ official Web site. “When you have a little cushion to work with, it’s always a little more comfortable that way.”

Duke is 2-2 with a 4.06 ERA in six starts against the Giants. He lost his last game against them opposite Cain, giving up four runs and seven hits in seven innings.

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Starting Pitchers

Z. Duke CWS vs. M. Cain SF
11-16 Record 14-8
4.06 ERA 2.89
106 K 171
49 BB 73
1.31 WHIP 1.18


Wednesday, Jul 29